Last month, I shared with you that I was suffering from severe cognitive difficulties from a vitamin deficiency and today I wanted to update you on how I am as so many of you offered such kind support.
The diagnosis came after the type of doctor’s appointment that has your whole life flash before you. As I told my doctor, also an old friend, what I was experiencing, he shared an analogy with me of how he thought I was feeling.
I stared at him blankly.
“I know that I am supposed to understand what you just said. And I heard the words. I could say it back to you, but I can’t tell you what you meant.”
Unlike me, my doctor is not transparent. His face doesn’t show his full deck of cards. No doctor’s should, I reckon. And, yet, there was an almost imperceptible twitch when I said that, a twitch that alarmed me just enough.
“What do you think it is?” He asked, either willing to trust my instincts or wanting to distract me from what I just thought I saw.
“A B12 deficiency,” I told him. And he nodded saying he’d test for that and a few other things.
Then he paused, finding the words, perhaps preparing himself to prepare me.
“I… don’t… think… we’re going to find dementia.” He wasn’t being flip. From what I had just said and demonstrated, it was on the scale of possibility. Far down the scale, but on it nonetheless.
I blinked. What else could I do? At that point, I couldn’t change what was going on inside me. Desperate, beggy prayers (as Anne Lamott calls them) weren’t going to change the outcome, all I could hope for, pray for, expect was the ability to act with grace.
A few days later, I saw my doctor and he emphasized how very low my B12 levels were (to my relief, for sure, and I imagine his, too). No wonder I felt the way I did, he said, but the good news was that this was treatable, fixable, doable. It would just take time, he said. I probably wouldn’t feel like myself until August but chances were good that I would regain most of or maybe even all of my cognition.
You know how you sometimes re-write things to be a little better than what was said. I am going to go ahead and be honest and say that I rewrote that to say I would feel like myself WAY before August and I would regain all of my cognition. Because I am an optimist.
Now, here I am, two months into treatment and already I can tell a difference. My B12 and D vitamin levels are up. They still need work, but they are better- and better enough for me to notice positive differences in my daily life. My understanding of things as they are happening are better right now. I feel more like myself in the moment and more like I can contribute meaningfully to conversations and support my friends and family in the way that I want. I am not as mentally exhausted or physically exhausted– and that’s been awesome. So progress is definitely being made.
Sadly, though I thought the August recovery prediction was a bit pessimistic- it seems my doctor might be right. My memory still isn’t great; my creativity is still a bit slow for what’s been my history, I still have some expressive aphasia, I cannot multi-task, my thoughts are fleeting– if I don’t write them down immediately, they are gone. I could be distracted by what’s missing but I am so thrilled with what’s back that I just can’t be. I probably overemphasize how much I better I feel because I can now recognize just how bad I did feel, how lost I was in my mind, how much I was becoming someone I didn’t know.
So I know myself again; my jokes are back; I am moving faster, thinking more clearly, feeling more confident. And that is just so good. In the past few months, people have approached me about whether or not B12 could be their issue and, I tell you, it really does seem like a lot of us are out there walking around without the B12 and other nutrients we need. If it feels severe, go to your doctor and get tested or ask your doctor about starting a multi-vitamin or B12 supplement. Far too often, we blame external factors for what we’re experiencing– mom brain, work stress, whatever- and those things are indeed debilitating but sometimes it’s not what it seems and really can be something going on inside. Take care of you, so you can take care of everything else that matters to you.